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The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student


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NIL opens up opportunities for Derrick Jackson to secure brand partnerships


It’s been a long-standing discourse that college athletes should get compensated in some capacity for the value they bring to their respective universities. June 30, 2021 will stand the test of time as the day college sports changed forever. 

“This is an important day for college athletes since they all are now able to take advantage of name, image, and likeness opportunities,” NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) President Mark Emmert told the press the day of the monumental announcement. 

The new NIL allows for players to get compensated—not through the university, but by using their individuality and essentially becoming a brand. They are now allowed to get compensated through monetizing their social media accounts, brand partnerships, and a myriad of other entities. 

Knox track and field standout and running back on the football team, Derrick Jackson—or D-Jack, as his friends call him—had a brand partnership lined up within 24 hours of the seismic NIL announcement. 

“My first one was the [Positivity] Water,” Jackson said of the Black-owned water brand he partnered with back in July. “Like I was playing a game, and I stopped doing everything I was doing just to make sure I was able to represent myself.”

For Jackson, it was a natural fit for him to partner with the company. He’s meticulous as to what water he consumes. Before the partnership, he was a huge fan of Fiji water, and now he’s switched to alkaline or tap water due to the pH levels. The partnership with Positivity Water was the start of Jackson’s foray into the waters of the NIL business. Next came an opportunity with another water company, Pathwater, and Elite Athletic Gear. 

Elite Athletic Gear provided Jackson with a gold visor coupled with a supply of socks and shirts. What resonated with Jackson most from the companies was their approach. They initiated the discussion with respect and welcomed him as family, not just an asset. 

“They check on me like I’m family—and not only just me, every athlete that partners with them,” Jackson said. “They send out daily motivational texts, emails and make sure everything’s all good. They also try to bring on a little competitive side. So whoever sells the most water bottles in a month, they’ll post on social media. It’s not just about the water. It’s the whole family organization.”

Jackson talks about family profusely because of how important it is to him. The Florida native’s first tattoo was of a sister he lost growing up. In addition to her, he has a sister, a brother, a cousin who is like a big brother, his grandmother and grandad, and of course his mother and his step-dad.

When Jackson is struggling, his family picks him up and keeps him on the right track. The women in Jackson’s life—from his mother to his grandmother and his girlfriend—have that calming effect. 

“I think about everything I’ve done and how hard it is on my mental. My mom, she’s always my go-to when I don’t know what to say or what to do on my next move; she always gets me to take a step back. And of course my grandma—she always has my back too,” Jackson told me in a fitted tracksuit with one of his partnership’s water bottles sitting on the metal table outside of Seymour Hall. “Anytime I can talk to those two about anything, it’s like best friends.”

The two-time Male Athlete of the Year has to stay organized to keep track of the partnerships that come his way. In the midst of the grind of football season and the demanding course load the 10-week semester brings, staying organized is a necessity for sanity. When NIL started, many college athletes signed with agencies to handle their branding. Jackson is primarily operating by himself in that regard.

Jackson’s performance as a record-breaking track athlete has translated into opportunities off the field. “What I do is I put [ideas] on a whiteboard, ‘cause I have a list of sponsors. I write it down, like what I’ll post and stuff like that. I keep up on social media and what they send me and [how] I’m going to use it.” Jackson said. 

Family doesn’t just mean blood for Jackson. He named fellow seniors and student-athletes Malcolm Bray and Jordan Rayner, who aren’t blood-related to him, but the friendship is close as family. He looks up to them when it comes to one’s presentation of themselves.

“I’ve been inspired by a lot of people. Jordan Rayner inspired me. He’s done a lot of great things, not only for the Knox community but the whole St. Louis community,” Jackson said. “Jordan knows how to represent himself and the people around him. He takes good care of people.”

Rayner offered similar praise for Jackson, a man that he calls the “fastest man in the Midwest Conference.” 

“It was good to see someone that I see every day, go to class with, and work out with doing these big things, getting his brand out there. I just told him, ‘keep going, keep making the school proud, keep making us proud.’ I know he’s only going to keep doing great things,” Rayner said.

Jackson can’t disclose the current project he’s working on, but he’s excited about the possibilities that the NIL rules have opened up for student-athletes. Jackson will continue sipping water from his brand-sponsored bottle, staying hydrated for Saturday afternoon’s. For the time being, Jackson will survey his offensive line trying to decipher where the open hole is, allowing Jackson to accelerate through to create a big play for his team. Off the field, Jackson will use that same patient approach as he searches for the right branding opportunity to take care of his family.

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